Jack Bird has given the Broncos a major pre-season boost after declaring himself fully recovered from an injured sternum and ready to make the centre position his own.
The 2016 premiership winner had a disrupted pre-season last year after returning from shoulder surgery and that continued into the regular NRL season where a troublesome sternum gave him no end of grief and limited his Telstra Premiership appearances to just eight games.
An operation was required and Bird had a plate and 10 screws inserted to stabilise the injury, which has now fully healed.
"I think it is 100% right. I went and saw the surgeon last week and got the all-clear to go ahead with contact and every other thing," Bird said of his sternum after a Broncos conditioning session on Wednesday.
"I am feeling good and looking forward to the year ahead where, fingers crossed, there will be no setbacks and I am fully fit.
"Last year, with the shoulder injury and not having a full pre-season under my belt, it was hard to gel in with the boys but this year there is a good opportunity to tie the ropes down and get cracking."
And it is in the centre position, where he played for Cronulla in the Sharks' historic 2016 grand final win, that Bird intends to have a red-hot crack after a chat with coach Wayne Bennett.
Bird can play in the halves and at lock but it is the centre position where he is most suited in the Brisbane squad and where he enjoys playing the most.
The Broncos were keen to give the 23-year-old clarity about exactly where they wanted him to play in 2019.
"I spoke to Wayne at the end of the season and I’m pretty sure I will be playing centres … in the short term," Bird said.
"I don’t know about long term. Body shapes change, but in the meantime I am going to play centre and I am happy to play centre."
Assistant coach Jason Demetriou is leading Brisbane’s training sessions until Bennett returns from Europe and said he was excited about helping Bird unlock his best football at centre.
"It is good that Wayne has had a chat to him and he knows where he is going to be playing so he can commit to that, and it is my job as the attack coach to find ways to get Jack in the game from that centre position as well," Demetriou said.
"The good thing is that there is a lot of scope with what we can do with him.
"Jack is a runner but he has got good skill as well. He has the ability to jump over from the left edge to the right edge, come in as an extra fullback and link into the line so there are so many variations you can use him on.
"He is a finisher as well and loves scoring tries and we need that bit of strike out on the edge. It is important that we give him the confidence and encouragement to go out and play that way."
Bird looked in good nick physically at Brisbane training and said he had adopted a healthier diet in the off-season.
Broncos fans will be heartened to know that he also has a spring in his step and a smile on his face after putting the woes of the last 12 months behind him.
"I am just in a better head space than what I was and that goes a long way," he said.
"Last year was a tough season for me mentally and physically but I feel like I have bounced back pretty well."